Serious concerns have been voiced over the safety of chains and other components of fork lift trucks operated in potentially corrosive environments.
The warning from Consolidated Fork Truck Services (CFTS), the body responsible for developing and administering the materials handling industry’s national accreditation scheme for Thorough Examination, follows reports of premature chain failures on counterbalance trucks operating at a salt works.
"When trucks operate under arduous conditions, especially in corrosive environments like a salt works, danger may be lurking just beneath the surface of a chain, or other component," explains CFTS technical manager Chas Day.
CFTS stresses that chains are a critical component of every fork lift truck. Chas says: "They are designed, manufactured and rigorously tested to ensure that they can handle the dynamic stresses a fork lift truck faces in day-to-day operation, but they are still vulnerable."
Uneven working surfaces, increased operating speeds, poor cleaning practices and inappropriate chain lubrication will also contribute to this workplace danger.
"Any corrosion on chains or components that can be seen with the naked eye is potentially hazardous," adds Chas. "At the very least this warrants a closer inspection by a Competent Person, possibly including ultrasonic testing.
"One of the key reasons for the Thorough Examination of fork lift trucks is to ensure, on a periodic basis, that vital maintenance such as this is being carried out. A CFTS Thorough Examination will identify any signs of corrosive fatigue on your chains or other fork lift truck components."
CFTS recommends that chains fitted to fork lift trucks operating in hostile and aggressive environments should be constantly inspected but replaced after a period not exceeding 4000 hours or 2 years, whichever is the shorter. The Competent Person may also make a judgement based on operating conditions and then decide if replacement is necessary on a case by case basis.
These recommendations are based on a six-page guidance note (BITA Guidance Note GN15) issued by the British Industrial Truck Association (BITA) in May 2010. Advice can also be found in the Fork Lift Truck Association (FLTA) Technical Bulletin 2.
The CFTS Thorough Examination scheme was established through collaboration between the British Industrial Truck Association (BITA) and the Fork Lift Truck Association (FLTA), the two leading bodies in the UK fork lift truck industry.
Developed in close co-operation with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), CFTS Thorough Examinations have been specifically designed to address the special needs of fork lift trucks.The laws governing the use of fork lift trucks state that any machine over 12 months old – including hire trucks – must hold a current Report of Thorough Examination.
For companies not familiar with Thorough Examination, there is a short explanatory video available for immediate viewing on the CFTS website at www.thoroughexamination.org.